British Touring Car Championship 2010 season in review, part 3
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has lived up to expectations once again and proved why it is the best National Touring Car series in the world.
This was non more evident as approaching the final meeting of the year as Jason Plato, Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Tom Onslow-Cole were all separated by just 24-points.
Throughout the year all four drivers had suffered various highs and the lows but in the end it was Silverline Chevrolet's Plato who took his second BTCC crown.
During part 3 of the season review we look at the teams fighting to get to become regular race winners many of whom have scored wins and regular podiums but not quite managed to make a serious threat to the title running back into the heat of the midfield action.
After a strong 2009 season things didn't look good for Motorbase Performance with title sponsor Airwaves pulling out and despite testing for the team in the early part of the year lead driver Rob Collard made the switch to WSR.
But just days before the official unveiling it was announced that Airwaves would return and as expected Mat Jackson would join BTCC and Motorbase returnee Steven Kane, but the biggest shock was that the BMW was in the latest 2010 WTCC spec.
Much was expected of Jackson who returned to driving a BMW after he was runner up in the series back in 2008 in his family run BMW. Things got off to a good start at Thruxton with 3 top 5 finishes and two podiums, a 3rd in race 1, 5th in race 2 and 2nd in race 3 in a great 1-2 finish for the team.
The biggest problem for Jackson all year was the qualifying pace of the BMW qualifying in the top 10 on just 4 occasions all year making it hard to get good points from the opening race. At Rockingham he qualified 11th coming 13th in race 1 in the wet/dry conditions before a good 4th place in race 2 but his race 3 would last less than a lap after contact with Tom Chilton eliminating him on the first lap.
Jackson struggled at Brands in the first two races scoring just 1 point in the opening two races but made up for it scoring his only victory of the season in race 3 where he would make the most of the rear wheel drive BMW being kind to his wet tyres as the circuit dried up.
Despite not coming on the podium at Oulton, two 4th positions in the opening two races was a good return with a 7th in race 3 while at Croft after qualifying in 12th a 9th in race 1 and a 7th in race 3 was the best he could manage after a DNF in race 2.
Proving that a good qualifying was the key for a good weekend was at Snetterton when he qualified in 4th in the wet before taking second in race 1. That was followed up by a 5th and a 7th in races 2 and 3 but it was back to qualifying outside the top 10 at Silverstone meaning a non-score in race 1 and just a point race in 2 although he would make up for it in race 3 with a fine podium albeit with a rather forceful move on Chilton to take the place.
Another poor qualifying at Knockhill in 12th meant a 10th in race 1 was the best he could mange in race 1 before making places in race 2 to finish 6th going one better to take 5th in race 3 after an over ambitious move at the chicane to take the lead on the opening lap ended up with a trip through the gravel. At Donington he failed to qualify in the top 10 but he managed to avoid all the carnage at the chicane and took a great podium from 11th taking 5th and 8th in races 2 and 3.
Jackson clearly had the pace at Brands and qualified a good 6th and was up to third by the first lap but a spin sent him down the field and 13th was all he could manage. He managed to climb up to 8th in race 2 before taking 4th in the final race of the season eventually finishing the season in a probably disappointing for him 7th.
After a great end to the season in 2008 the little Irish man Kane found him out of a drive in 2009 but this season he made an instant impression on the BTCC returning to the team that ran him in 2008 and in Porsches prior to that.
Kane had brilliant race craft and pace all season often coming from the back of the grid to score well in races but like Jackson his qualifying pace was even worse starting in the top 10 just twice all year.
A retirement in race 1 of the season was not a great return but a better race 2 saw him finish in 8th before an historic race 3 saw him lead a Motorbase 1-2 to take their fist ever 1-2 and Kane to take a hugely popular first victory.
He continued his great start to the season at Rockingham qualifying 9th taking 5th in race 1 which was followed up by a double podium finish in third in the other 2 races.
14th in qualifying at Brands meant the best he could manage in race 1 was 11th but 7th in race 2 meant a good start in the reverse grid for race 3 in which he would take another podium finish after being passed for second by Matt Neal who was storming up through the pack on slick tyres in a drying track. At Oulton he made up 5 places in race 1 to take 6th which was followed up by 5th before by now taking his customary race 3 podium for second.
Croft was looking to being a disaster for Kane who had yet another miserable qualifying back in 15th. A non points finish in 11th in race 1 was followed by mechanical trouble in race 2 meaning he would have to start race 3 at the back of the grid and little chance of him preserving his record of scoring a podium at every race so far. But against all odds Kane produced a stunning drive securing 3rd place on the last lap continuing his brilliant record. His record was to go after the mid-season break at Snetterton although 3 points finishes for 7th, 4th and 6th weren't a disaster. Three more points finishes at Silverstone although not quite in the positions he would have liked back in 9th, 8th and 7th.
Knockhill he produced his best qualifying position of the season in 5th where he would take advantage of this finishing on the podium in 3rd. He finished 5th in race 2 despite being tagged around by Chilton but sadly his race weekend was to end on the warm up lap of race 3 with mechanical issues meaning he couldn't start 3rd on the grid. At Donington more trouble in qualifying meant he had to start at the back of the grid for race 1 but a good drive through the mayhem ended up in 6th. He repeated his performance in race 2 before going on to take 4th in race 3. Kane went into the final race of the year still within reach of the Independent title but yet again another disappointing qualifying finishing in 14th made that difficult. 6th in race 2 made the Independent title a real possibility after Tom Onslow- Cole had a nightmare of a weekend and with Kane starting well up in race 3 it went right down to between himself and Chilton.
Kane ended up taking second in the race but narrowly missed out on the title. He spent the majority of the race trying to pass Andrew Jordan but Chilton held on from Kane's team mate Jackson to take third and the Independents title, had there been a car between the pair then it would have gone Kane's way.
Motorbase also had a third car in at Brands Hatch in a bid to secure the Independents title. Driving the car was Ben Collins who had just been revealed as the man in the white suite The Stig in the BBC's hit TV car show Top Gear. Much hype was created about Collin's debut but he didn't have the best of weekends. A disastrous Saturday meant he only completed a handful of laps all day and failed to set a time in qualifying. The team changed the gearbox overnight from a sequential gearbox to a 5-speed 'H' pattern. He finished race 1 in 14th and race 2 in 12th after being barged out of 10th place. He was again running in the points in race 3 but with him still not completely used to the gearbox, he made a mistake shifting down from 5th to 2nd locking the rear wheels and sending him into a high speed spin in the gravel although he did pick up two Independent points from the opening two races of the day.
After the joy of taking the 2009 driver's title with Colin Turkington WSR didn't enjoy the best of seasons in 2010. RAC had pulled out of being title sponsor, which meant that Turkington couldn't defend his championship although they did do well to steal Collard away from Motorbase and return to the team he had run with in an MG in 2005/06.
Like fellow BMW drivers Collard didn't always qualify well but he always made up for it in racing the races with his hard approach.
Thruxton was a hapless start to the season with a retirement in race 1 before 9th in race 2. Race 3 looked good for the local man and with help with the reverse grid he was leading comfortably until innocently being taken out of the race after Matt Neal's over ambitious move to pass two cars around the outside at the chicane.
Rockingham was better but still didn't start well qualifying 12th and taking 10th in tricky conditions in race 1. Race 2 saw him take his first of seven podiums throughout the year for second before ending the day in 6th.
A better qualifying at Brands saw him take 4th in race 1 but a first lap tap and spin saw him only take 12th prior to taking another 4th in race 3.
Things started well at Oulton taking 3rd in race 1but another first lap collision meant another pointless second race with an 8th place ending his day.
A best qualifying position of the season in 3rd almost resulted in an only win of the season but unfortunately for Collard he was pushed onto the grass while on the outside in the drag race to the line. He slipped back in race 2 to 8th but was back to his best in race 3 carving through the field and getting him in to contention for a win but mechanical issue's stopped him whilst in a podium position and a pit stop meant a no points finish. A poor qualifying at Snetterton saw him take 10th in race 1. He was able to gain another few places in race 2 taking 7th but ended the day on a high overtaking Neal in a forceful move to claim second late on in the race.
Silverstone saw Collard have an up and down day taking 6th in race 1 with yet another 2nd in race 2 although race 3 saw Collard only take 12th after a physical first few laps. Knockhill was clearly Collard's toughest weekend of the season after being hit out in race 1. His race 2 lasted less than a few corners after he was innocently collected after Dave Pinkney spun and came back on the track collecting the WSR BMW. He did however collect some points for 6th in race 3 of the day.
At Donnington he was running up in the points but was one of many drivers to get involved in the incident at the chicane after Jason Plato had hit Neal sending bollards up into the air and it appeared Collard got hit by the unsighted Jordan meaning he only took 16th after a pit stop. Race 2 saw Collard battle through the pack to take 7th, which worked well in race 3 with the reverse grid and meant Collard was to take his 5th 2nd of the season.
Despite a nightmare qualifying at Brands Collard was able to end his season well coming up from 13th to 5th in race 1.Race 2 saw Collard take his final podium of the season in 3rd. He was also hunting down a podium in the last race of the season but ended up losing a couple of places and eventually finished in 6th.
Joining Collard at WSR was Andy Neate. Neate previously raced a one off BTCC meeting at Brands Hatch back in 2005 and it had looked like he was to join the series for WSR before he suffered a life threatening injury during the opening lap of the Britcar 24hr race back in 2008.
Neate probably didn't have the best first season in the BTCC often being the one spinning off or ending up in the barriers but the fact he was even alive let alone racing in the BTCC was a miracle in its self.
He got his BTCC career off to a points scoring start with 10th in race 1 at Thruxton but points would not come often with a best qualifying position of 14th all year not helping.
Rockingham saw him score his best position of the year but that was still down in 9th with him also failing to score a point in the wet at Brands, which included a spin in the gravel during the second race. He just missed out on a point in race 1 at Oulton while in race 3 he was disqualified from 9th after it appeared from onboard footage he steered into Jordan to put him in the tyres. He ended the first half of the season with a single 10th at Croft where he repeated that as the second half started at Snetterton.
He returned to the scene of his horrific crash Silverstone almost two years to the day of the accident but 2 non points finishes were sandwiched between an opening lap retirement after breaking his left front suspension after contact.
Knockhill wasn't any better after going off heavily in qualifying he finished all three races but 12th in the opening races and 13th in race 3.
Donington saw Neate take a pair of 15th's with a DNF in race 3 before ending the season with yet another off in qualifying at Brands Hatch but passing 'The Stig' Ben Collins on his way to a point at Brands must surely be one of few highlights from the season.